When you are under suspicion for a federal crime, law enforcement collects evidence against you to try to prove that you committed an illegal act. One of the most common ways to collect this evidence is through searches of your home and other property, as well as places you regularly frequent, such as your office. After they collect evidence against you, they then detain or “seize” you for questioning and arrest.
All of these actions can be legal, but only under very specific circumstances. The U.S. Constitution protects your right to privacy, and as such, you have certain rights that must be respected in the course of any search or seizure. Federal search and seizure law is very complex, which means that your rights may be infringed upon, whether accidentally or not. A Columbus federal defense attorney can help you to ensure that your search and seizure rights are respected—and get justice for any violations.
Understanding Your 4th Amendment Rights
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution is where federal search and seizure law has its roots. Under the Fourth Amendment, you have the right to refuse any unreasonable search in places you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This generally includes your home, your car, your office, your phone, and any other place where it is generally accepted that you have a right to privacy.
It’s important to remember, however, that the 4th Amendment doesn’t protect you if you consent voluntarily to a search. Any evidence obtained in a search that you agreed to is fair game to use in court. That’s why it’s important to always politely decline any searches when asked by police—even if you’ve done nothing wrong.
Probable Cause and Search Warrants
The Constitution may protect you from unreasonable searches and seizures, but it does not protect you from reasonable intrusions against your privacy. If officers have probable cause to believe that your property may have evidence of a crime, they can obtain a search warrant from a judge and conduct a search. Law enforcement also can get an arrest warrant for you for a crime if they have probable cause that you committed the crime. In certain circumstances, probable cause alone is enough to justify a search or an arrest without a judge’s input. For example, a police officer can search your car on the scene for drugs if a drug sniffing dog indicates for drugs.
So what exactly is probable cause? Generally speaking, probable cause is defined as significant objective evidence to believe that a crime has occurred. This is a difficult question to answer, however, because there is no specified threshold for how much evidence is needed for probable cause. Ultimately, judges decide whether or not an officer has probable cause for a federal search. If law enforcement conducts a search without a warrant, the judges can evaluate the search to decide whether or not it was valid.
What I’m the Victim of an Illegal Search or Seizure?
Not all searches and seizures are legal. If a judge determines that law enforcement carried out an illegal search or seizure, you have recourse as a victim. First, federal search and seizure law dictates that any evidence that was obtained during an illegal search cannot be used in court under what is known as the exclusionary principle. Second, any additional evidence found as a result of the illegally obtained evidence is further thrown out. It is “fruit of the poisonous tree” and cannot be used against you. For example, if police illegally search your home and find illegal drugs and a cell phone with the address of another drug storage location, not only would the first drugs found be excluded from a trial, but also any drugs or evidence found at the second location, because the tip came from an illegally obtained phone.
Sometimes, an illegal search is enough to get charges dropped, especially if all the evidence in a case stems from an original search. Unfortunately, this is not always true. It depends on the other evidence against you. In any case, though, your federal criminal defense lawyer will be better able to put a defense against the charges.
Let a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer Protect Your Rights
If you have been subject to any search or been detained by federal agents for questioning, you are likely the subject of a federal investigation—a situation that you should take quite seriously. You could face serious federal charges and even lengthy prison sentences if convicted. That’s why it is so important to ensure that your rights are protected and that law enforcement is forced to strictly comply with federal search and seizure law.
A Columbus federal defense attorney is your best protection throughout the entire criminal justice process. Call us at Luftman, Heck, and Associates today at (614) 500-3836 to set up a free consultation on your case. We will be able to analyze the evidence against you, as well as the process by which it was collected, and develop a winning legal strategy for your defense. Contact us now to find out how we may be able to help.
Facing federal criminal charges? Contact us.
If you have been charged with a federal crime, you’re probably wondering what your options are. The Ohio federal criminal defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck & Associates have years of experience handling these types of cases and winning optimal outcomes for our clients. Call an Ohio federal crime lawyer today for a free consultation. To contact a Columbus criminal defense lawyer, call us at (614) 500-3836 or email us via [email protected].